Why suicide rate is highest among young Indians ?
An alarming report on increasing suicides in India is calling for urgent intervention and rethinking of our system. What’s wrong with Indians? Our country had shown the world the path to eternal happiness. And, now, Indians are an unhappy lot!…If you probe further deeper into reasons, you will see many cultural, genetic and religious factors…
Young people in India are committing suicide at a much higher rate than in the West, says The Lancet report, entitled Suicide Mortality in India released on June 23, June 2012.
The first ever national survey of deaths in India found that some 56 percent of all women who took their own lives in 2010 and 40 percent of men were aged between 15 and 29.
The suicide rates are highest in the 15-29 age groups, peaking in southern states that are considered richer and more developed with better education, social welfare and health care.
Opportunities that have come with two decades of economic boom and open markets have also brought more job anxiety, higher expectations and more pressure to achieve, mental health experts said.
This is calling for urgent intervention and rethinking of our institution called India or Bharat. Added to it, many suicide cases still go unreported as people hide what is still an illegal act in India.
The higher rates may come from “the greater likelihood of disappointments when aspirations that define success and happiness are distorted or unmet by the reality faced by young people in a rapidly changing society,” said Dr. Vikram Patel, one of the report’s authors. He also noted online social networking was making “loneliness more common.” He admits his conclusion is conjecture, but says “I cannot think of any more plausible explanation.”
Mind is my area of research. But I have not officially learned psychology. So I have talked to few psychologists on their view. I talked to social scientists too…They say:
* The stress levels go up.
* There some kind of disintegration of family system patch and you miss out on those kinds of support systems
* The rapid changes on society that have come with globalization, the breakdown of the families
* The young face very high competition and pressure from families to succeed. Many parents think their child should come first in the class
* When youths start to despair, they often don’t think to seek help, or shun the idea because they think psychiatry and psychology is only for crazy people.
These are all reasons that need to be taken seriously.
But these answers didn’t satisfy me. Those are all generalized mind-level reasons. But there should be something that goes beyond mind.
In layman’s terms, immediate reason for suicide is that the person who attempts suicide is not happy. Unhappiness derives from stress. And stress comes from conflict. Any conflicts in mind can lead to stress.
What’s the major reason for the conflict? We have to address that. Then, it will be easy to address the suicide issue.
It’s no secret that happiness means different things to different people. And it also means different things to different people in different countries.
So the reasons could be deeper in a country’s psyche. If we go further deeper there must be many cultural, genetic and religious factors that need to be addressed.
I wanted to talk to a psychologist who knows about Indian culture and tradition and how does the mind work in DNA of this country. A psychologist, who just doesn’t go by what he/she learned in psychology class, predominantly written by western psychologists based on the cultural upbringing and conditioning of westerners…This is east. Socio-geographical-political-ethnic-genetic factors could be different.
Then I had a detailed talk with Sahana Madhyastha (who also writes in SpeakingTree) Clinical Psychologist and Asst Professor of a reputed university in India. She has a website on Indian mind too – sahanabhavathu.com
She has raised an important issue. “…the real cause would be today’s generation’s wrong understanding of happiness…”
“The real reason is that we Indians forget what happiness is. The greatest contribution of India to the world is the concept of happiness. We have just forgotten it…And we are thinking that “comforts”, “pleasure” and “enjoyment” give happiness…”
“Even in today’s circumstances, Indian happiness is related to emotions like peace and harmony. For westerners, it is joy and enthusiasm. Relationships, a major contributor to well-being for Indians, are defined through family. In the west, it’s characterized by work, relationships, and friends….”
According to Sahana, in India, unlike in the west, well-being was not defined only by individual wellness, but by the growth of other people’s lives, mainly their families. This is due to the collective, rather than individualistic, nature of Indian society.
The Eastern mind is more inner-directed and concerned with perfection of self (esoteric). The Western mind, in contrast, takes the exoteric approach; looking at the world and finding one’s place within it, rather than seeking enlightenment as an internal process.
She was right. In the West, a human being has an individualistic nature and is an independent part of the universe and the society. Individualism is stronger. Even gods are personal.
Now think of our ancestry.
In our psyche (our DNA or genetic code) a human being is an integral part of the universe and the society. People are fundamentally connected. Duty towards all others is a very important matter. Collectivism is stronger.
West believes in linear development, hence improvement has a goal. Development stops when the goal is reached.
We Indians believe in cyclic development, hence improvement is a never ending journey that has no limits…
West is more focused on individual events and the role of the person. We, Indians, were having systemic approach – all events in the universe are interconnected.
Hence, the conflict is created when we go against out genetic-developed mind and start following newly conditioned mind which is filled with concepts that has been pumped on us by western marketing lobbies in terms of ideas, products and services.
This is the basic issue. The conflict between the real self (Indian DNA) and unreal self (Trying to imitate Western DNA).
So who is the real culprit here?
1. Parenting: Wrong parenting. Parents are confused. How many of you know about our tradition and culture (Forget the history texts in schools and colleges – everybody knows that our history is gross manipulation). If I am not imbibing my tradition and culture, that is in tune with the DNA structure in my child, I am at fault. I cannot stop the genetic code at one go. The difference between the real I and manifested I should be taught to our children from day one. We blindly follow the superficial life thrushed on to us by the marketeers.
2. Media: Media is run by advertisements and sponsoring. All journalists, including me, need to eat. So, it is just another job like teaching, accounting, politics or priesthood…Media cannot and will not present entire truth. Media is run by businessmen who in turn want return in terms of money or power. So media will go to any extend to make it. It misleads younger generation. They take everything for granted. Talking about our tradition is old-fashioned and non-profitable for the media. But promoting Western and foreign culture has become money spinning for the media. (For instance, if you promote Valentine Day, you will get advertisement. The story of Satyavan-Savitri doesnot have any market value)
3. Greed: In ancient India, poverty was considered a virtue. We respected wsidom, knowledge and great saints who lived by begging. Kings used to bow their head in front of a poor Guru. This has changed. The sole purpose of life has become making money, thanks to our media. For what? “Enjoyment”. Now, poverty is just seen as an opportunity. It’s beneficial only for foreign-funded NGOs and political industrialists that millions of Indians are poor. It makes them rich. Most of them are veteran starvation marketers.
4. Changing society – Society doesn’t take any responsibility anymore. We don’t have civic sense. We need freaky life.”Enjoy” has become our only mantra. The mood of society has gone from collective conscience to individual selfishness.
5. No moral foundation in schools: We don’t teach morality and civic sense in the schools. Our kids dont have moral courage to fight for truth. Schools seldom teach national pride, patriotism and our traditional culture. The government schools rarely teach our Epics, our stories like Panchatantra or our philosophies. We have forgotten the mother of all langauges, Sanskrit. I do not know if there is any Sanskrit-medium school in India. But we have more number of English-medium schools than that in the USA and UK together. We forget our own mother. Then, how can we be right?
All these and many more reasons lead to chaos, because all these developments would create only violence and conflict. Hence unhappiness…that leads to suicide.
When I have discussed about this matter with another friend of mine in Mumbai, he asked:
“What do your Hindu scriptures say about suicide? Does it ban suicide?”
“Hinduism is not a prescriptive religion with list of Do’s and Don’ts. It gives freedom to individual to decide. Generally, committing suicide is considered a violation of the code of ahimsa (non-violence) and therefore equally adharmica as murdering another human. Suicide also puts an individual’s spiritual clock in reverse. Hindu scriptures therefore aptly describe it as murder of self (atmahatya)…It also known as pranatyaga, “abandoning life force.” Intentionally ending one’s own life through poisoning, drowning, burning, jumping, shooting, etc. Suicide has traditionally been condemned in Hindu scripture because, being an abrupt escape from life, it creates unseemly karma to face in the future.”
“So Hinduism doesn’t approve Suicide?” he asked.
“It’s not like that. Sanatan Dharma accepts a man’s right to end one’s life through the non-violent practice of fasting to death, termed Prayopavesa. But Prayopavesa is strictly restricted to people who have no desire or ambition left, and no responsibilities remaining in this life…But what happens today? We do not want to become tolerant and accept our bad karma but want to escape the problem. In this way suicide is not a solution it on the contrary increases the problem…”
“Can you explain more on Prayopavesa?” he asked.
“In the event of terminal disease or great disability, religious self-willed death through fasting – prayopavesa – is permitted. The person making such a decision declares it publicly, which allows for community regulation and distinguishes the act from suicide performed privately in traumatic emotional states of anguish and despair…”
Our ancestors clearly developed various stipulations:
1) Inability to perform normal bodily purification;
2) Death appears imminent or the condition is so bad that life’s pleasures are nil;
3) The action must be done under community regulation.
The gradual nature of prayopavesa is a key factor distinguishing it from sudden suicide, svadehaghata, for it allows time for the individual to settle all differences with others, to ponder life and draw close to God, as well us for loved ones to oversee the person’s gradual exit from the physical world. In the ideal, highly ritualized practice, one begins by obtaining forgiveness and giving forgiveness.
Next, a formal vow. Mahavrata-marana, “great vow of death,” is given to one’s guru, following a full discussion of all karmas of this life, especially fully and openly confessing one’s wrongdoings.
This follows meditation on the innermost, immortal self becomes the full focus as one gradually abstains from food. At the very end, as the soul releases itself from the body, the sacred mantra is repeated as instructed by the preceptor.
Our ancestors knew that life is more than a body, that the jeeva (soul) is immortal, that a proper exit can, in fact, be elevating.
Death for Hindus is the most exalted human experience – a grand and important departure called maliaprastliana in Sanskrit. To leave the body in the right frame of mind, in the right consciousness, through the highest possible chakra is a key to spiritual progress.
There shouldn’t be a sudden or impulsive decision – instead, a quiet, slow, natural exit from the body, coupled with spiritual practices, with mantras and tantras, with scriptural readings, with joyous release, recognition and support from friends and relations.
When we discuss about preventing suicides, we should also consider these deeper issues. Just focusing on psychology and social issues won’t be sufficient.
Now, let me tell you a personal experience. One of my classmates was facing tough time with her divorce. She told me:”I am so much frustrated and depressed…I want to end my life…”
“You husband leaves you because he doesn’t love you anymore. Why do you want to commit suicide for a person who doesn’t love you?”
“He has cheated me…”
“So, he is the culprit, not you. He has a reason to commit suicide, not you…”
“But he left me… how can I face problems?”
“Every problem has a solution. There is not even single problem without solution. We can find solution for each and every problem if you acknowledge the problem as is…” We had few sessions of discussion. Now she is happily married and settled in USA.
Everybody has problems. It appears our problem is the biggest problem in the universe. We have to teach our children and students how to face problems in life. How to find non-violent solution to any problems. That’s a difficult task – but not impossible.
Our ancient scriptures guide us: “happiness remains in Karma – execution of one’s duty in life…”
Not in ending the life. Because there is no end to the life. It is in cycle for us. Not linear like in the West.
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